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updated: 9/11/2013 6:27 PM

Nation pauses on 9/11 to pay tribute to victims

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  • Video: 9/11 memorial service

  • Video: 9/11 anniversary tributes

  • Retired FDNY Marshal, Ernie Medaglia, of Bronxville, N.Y., who was at the attacks at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, listens to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a ceremony near the 9/11 Memorial honoring first responders and FDNY Rescue 1 on the 12th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013.

      Retired FDNY Marshal, Ernie Medaglia, of Bronxville, N.Y., who was at the attacks at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, listens to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a ceremony near the 9/11 Memorial honoring first responders and FDNY Rescue 1 on the 12th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013.
    Associated Press

  • Ron Joy makes a rubbing of his friend's name, New York Fire Department firefighter Capt. Vincent Giammona, at the South reflecting pool at the 9/11 Memorial on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, during ceremonies marking the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

      Ron Joy makes a rubbing of his friend's name, New York Fire Department firefighter Capt. Vincent Giammona, at the South reflecting pool at the 9/11 Memorial on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, during ceremonies marking the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York.
    Associated Press

  • FDNY Firefighter Mike Bellantoni of New York prepares a memento at the Firefighter's Memorial adjacent to the World Trade Center Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 before the start of the official ceremonies at the 9/11 Memorial nearby.

      FDNY Firefighter Mike Bellantoni of New York prepares a memento at the Firefighter's Memorial adjacent to the World Trade Center Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 before the start of the official ceremonies at the 9/11 Memorial nearby.
    Associated Press

  • Four World Trade Center, center, stands next to One World Trade Center, left, in lower Manhattan, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 in New York. Ceremonies will be held Wednesday at the memorial to mark the 12th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

      Four World Trade Center, center, stands next to One World Trade Center, left, in lower Manhattan, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 in New York. Ceremonies will be held Wednesday at the memorial to mark the 12th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
    Associated Press

  • A woman wipers her eyes after reading the name of her brother, Bobby Hughes, as friends and relatives of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks gather at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site Wednesday for a ceremony marking the 12th anniversary of the attacks.

      A woman wipers her eyes after reading the name of her brother, Bobby Hughes, as friends and relatives of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks gather at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site Wednesday for a ceremony marking the 12th anniversary of the attacks.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Life in lower Manhattan resembled any ordinary day on Wednesday as workers rushed to their jobs in the muggy heat, but time stood still at the World Trade Center site while families wept for loved ones who perished in the terror attacks 12 years ago.

For the families, the memories of that day are still vivid, the pain still acute. Some who read the names of a beloved big brother or a cherished daughter could hardly speak through their tears.

"Has it really been 12 years? Or 12 days? Sometimes it feels the same," said Michael Fox, speaking aloud to his brother, Jeffrey, who perished in the south tower. "Sometimes I reach for the phone so I can call you, and we can talk about our kids like we used to do every day."

On the memorial plaza overlooking two reflecting pools in the imprint of the twin towers, relatives recited the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died when hijacked jets crashed into the towers, the Pentagon and in a field near Shanksville, Pa. They also recognized the victims of the 1993 trade center bombing.

Bells tolled to mark the planes hitting the towers and the moments when the skyscrapers fell.

In Washington, President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden walked out to the White House's South Lawn for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. -- the time the first plane struck the south tower in New York. Another jetliner struck the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.

"Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been," Obama said.

A moment of silence was also held at the U.S. Capitol.

In New York, loved ones milled around the memorial site, making rubbings of names, putting flowers by the names of victims and weeping, arm-in-arm. Former Gov. George Pataki, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others were in attendance. As with last year, no politicians spoke. Mayor Michael Bloomberg watched the ceremony for his final time in office.

Carol Eckna recalled the contagious laugh of her son, Paul Robert Eckna, who was killed in the north tower.

"Just yesterday, you were 28," she said. "Today, you are 40. You are forever young. Dad and I are proud to be your parents."

The anniversary arrived amid changes at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, where construction started Tuesday on a new visitor center. On Wednesday, the families of the passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93 recalled their loved ones as heroes for their unselfish and quick actions. The plane was hijacked with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol, but passengers tried to overwhelm the attackers and the plane crashed into the field. All aboard died.

"In a period of 22 minutes, our loved ones made history," said Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93, whose brother, Edward, was a passenger.

Outside Washington, hundreds of people gathered for a short, simple ceremony at an Arlington County plaza three miles from the Pentagon. First responders from the county were among the first on the scene that day.

Fire Chief James Schwartz said ceremonies like Wednesday's -- which featured an honor guard and a moment of silence-- serve as a reminder of why first responders spend so much time preparing for disaster.

"I've often said this has been the fastest 12 years of my life," Schwartz said. "But if you are a surviving family member, I'd imagine this has been the longest 12 years of your life, because you're waking up every day with a hole in your heart."

Bloomberg also spoke at a remembrance service for the 84 Port Authority employees killed on Sept. 11 at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, in the shadow of where the World Trade Center once stood.

"On that terrible day, we were united in prayer and compassion for all of you who lost loved ones," the mayor said. "As we woke up this morning, our first thoughts were with you as well."

Dozens of family members and colleagues filled the pews as the Port Authority Police Pipes and Drums played during the posting of colors.

Around the world, thousands of volunteers pledged to do good deeds, honoring an anniversary that was designated a National Day of Service and Remembrance in 2009.

By next year's anniversary, a 9/11 museum is expected to be open beneath the memorial plaza in New York City. While the memorial honors those killed, the museum is intended to present a broader picture, including the experiences of survivors and first responders.

"As things evolve in the future, the focus on the remembrance is going to stay sacrosanct," memorial President Joe Daniels said.

Douglas Hamatie, whose 31-year-old cousin Robert Horohoe worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and died on 9/11, drew applause from the crowd when he declared that the day should become a national holiday.

"The kids today, they know when the next iPhone's coming out, and they know when the next Justin Bieber concert is, but they don't know enough about 9/11," he said. "So let's change that, please."

The organizers have said they will always keep the focus on the families, and that was evident this year as relatives gathered on the tree-laden plaza, where a smaller crowd gathered -- only friends and family of the victims were allowed.

Vicki Tureski, who lost her brother-in-law on Sept. 11, said the victims' families will help each other through the years to come.

"Strangers who are now friends, friends who are now family, family who pull us to our feet each day," she said. "I promise to continue to keep you in my prayers as we go through decade two of carrying the tragedy of 9/11 with us."

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